I posted this image of Samuel Beckett on my site last year.
It had quite a lot of ‘likes.’ I can prove it is my work as I
have the original painting.
Today I have been trawling through my site to find it
and it has disappeared. I wanted to show it to someone after
a photography programme on television last week mentioned
my friend, Jane Bown, who took the original photo, on which
I based my painting.
What’s going on, guys? It feels like it could be the subject of a
work of literature.
If anyone else can find it on my site, please let me know!
(Compound Eye of Antarctic Krill: Wikipedia. Photo by Gerd Alberti and
Snodbury was actually his mother’s surname, he believed.
She had waltzed off to Venezuela, following her political dreams
and had settled down with a salsa musician, producing his half-
Aunt Augusta ( Editor:In Retrospect May She Rest In Peace and Rise In
Glory!) had deposited him, as a confused four year old, in St Birinus’
Pre-Prep Department, where he might have turned into a pre-pubescent
Scrooge, given that he was often forgotten at half terms.
It was not the first time that Gus (Snod) had had the distinct sensation
that someone was standing behind him whilst he was shaving. Through
the condensation he wondered if, like another sweet young prince, he was
about to encounter his ghostly father. There were more surprising things
in Heaven and Earth, he was sure.
He felt that it was not entirely down to thespian self-delusions that he
could summon up a vague remembrance of an encounter with a man
called Arthur in some school holidays. The visits were etched on his
consciousness as they were marked by the gifts of a piece of Hornby
kit and a Rev Awdry book.
Aunt Augusta would collect him and take him on the train all the way
to Kent and then they would take a taxi to Wivern Mote.
His aunt and Arthur would sit round the fire in the converted stable block,
drinking mulled wine, if it was a Christmas Holiday, and gin and tonic, if
it wasn’t. He remembered the odd silver cups from which the wine had
been imbibed. They had embossed foxes’ heads on them. He had been
drinking Ribena from a tooth mug and had asked about them. He
remembered now: they were stirrup cups, he had been informed.
When it was time to go, he had to shake Arthur’s hand with his own
mittened fingers and he grew to anticipate the half crown that would
be passed into his woolly palm. It was never a two shilling piece. He
could tell, without looking- which would have been rude-just by feeling
the milled edge. Yes, Arthur had been generous, if enigmatic.
It wouldn’t seem long before he was back to the security of school- that
same establishment to which he had dedicated not only the best years
of his life,but the majority of them. The only noteworthy hiatus was
when he had studied Classics at university and had then returned like
the Biblical dog…
The toilet paper he had licked and stuck to his shaving nick fell off. He
hoped the wound would heal more quickly than the childhood scars he
was well aware of bearing into advanced adulthood.
‘Catharsis‘- that was le mot juste. If he could only lance the boil of his
carbuncular life, he felt the bloodletting would be beneficial. There had
been so many toxic infections visited upon him in the course of his
He laughed to himself: Pus in Boots! This was the way his tangential mind
roved around, seeking bad puns.
Yes, Dear Reader, the exploration of the life and times of this apparent
nonentity will be the very means whereby he may be purged and brought
to a hopeful re-birth (but not in any Dianetical way, I assure you.)
By tracing his twig’s development on The Tree of Life, by exploring
different starting points, he hoped to arrive at the identical solution: himself.
The Biology teacher had explained convergent evolution to him, but I won’t
bore you with an elucidation now.
He had also wished that he could see the world through a compound eye-
to see himself as others saw him and to see himself more clearly.
Perhaps with ocular enhancement he would avoid any more shaving nicks…
All the world's a stage, Bankside, bum bags, Don Paterson TS Eliot prize, groundlings, Hercules, Hermione, Isle of Wight, Jeffrey Archer, London Bridge, plague, Reeboks, Shakespeare, Sir Smile, Southwark, Thames, The Globe, The Wooden O, Winchester geese, Winchester Palace
Forgot about this poem which appeared in the Spring Issue of
Poetry Life magazine, 1998. It was printed on the back cover and
the front cover had a picture of Don Paterson who had just won the
TS Eliot Prize. So, I was in good company!
With the current Shakespeare celebrations taking place, I thought
I’d better give it another airing.
It was written in July, 1997.
TOTUS MUNDUS AGIT HISTRIONEM*
(The Globe, July 1997)
No kite-picked, severed heads on London Bridge;
no barge with poop of beaten gold, or sails
of purple on the River Thames. No screams
of baited bears at Bankside, nor whipped whores,
nor the crude cackling of Winchester geese**
by Southwark Bridge- perhaps the stink of drains.
No risk from rat flea plague. No sign of swans.
But there’s that octagon, that wooden O,
with its fantastic gates and bearded thatch.
I cannot see that flag with Hercules
bearing the world upon his able back.
But, no doubt it is there, or it will be.
No Spaniards landing on the Isle of Wight,
and another Elizabeth still reigns.
It is required that we awake our faith,
for, down below, I see the lineaments
of that first audience, now in Reeboks,
sporting bum bags: a modern cod-piece? No?
It is the heretic that burns the fire;
not she that burns in it, Hermione
instructs the crowd who hears the Irish news.
Helicopters whirr and obscure some lines,
while programme sellers interrupt: Two pounds!
where a penny once secured standing room.
Thousands will trample Jeffrey Archer’s name;
his stone his hope of immortality.
The selfsame sun that shines upon his court
shines on our cottage, but now the dampness
releases the strong smell of new hewn oak.
I think I sense Will’s ghost behind my bench
and trace his footsteps in the dried blood sand.
There’s laughter at the antics of Sir Smile:
hundreds have the disease and feel it not.
The rain falls on the just and the unjust ,
but, as ever, mostly on the groundlings,
who hide their peccadilloes under macs;
on the surface, behave impeccably,
while the elevated in the tarrass
miss the jokes and fall asleep in Act 4,
proving that all is as it was before.
*All the world’s a stage
** Prostitutes associated with the area around Winchester
Palace, near The Globe
Augustus Snodbury was very glad that he had made it to the end of term.
Virginia had been very happy with the pigeon’s egg ruby engagement
ring. Personally, like Dru, he had thought it a tad vulgar- its stone of
proportions more like the bump on Susan’s head.
Susan? I hear you query, Dear Reader.
Candia: Yes, the one who was/is with God.
Reader: I’m still no wiser.
Candia: Folk don’t seem to read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ now. Even the kids
just watch the Baz Luhrmann film. The Nurse’s child who died.
You know, that was why the old gal could be a wet nurse. Geddit?
Susan died when she fell and sustained a bump as big as a young
Candia: Testicle to you.
Reader: Ah! But what’s this to do with Virginia’s ring? Oh, yes!
Anyway, Virginia had clearly thought it was no more than she
deserved, as she quoted The Book of Proverbs– the bit about a virtuous
woman’s price being above rubies.
Reader: She is getting rather full of herself.
Candia: I agree. I could make her fall off her stilettos, if you like. I needn’t
wait till Lammas Tide.
Male Reader: No, don’t do that. We like to read about her ankles. Do you
think she will fall backwards in the near future?
Candia: Not so long as I can tease this sorry saga out! But, at least, Gus
is not ‘a man of wax.’
Reader (of either gender-or even both): No, we think that phrase refers
Candia: Oh, don’t be too hard on Nigel. He’s got enough on his plate.
His mother is trying to create difficulties about the wedding.
Reader: She has wormwood on her dug?
Candia: Her dug is all right. She’s prepared to check him into kennels
for the occasion.
Reader: Something is lost in translation here.
Candia: It is just that she feels she is losing a son rather than gaining
a daughter-in-law. She also thinks that she will have to hire a decorator
in future, as Nigel is bound to be more occupied as a married man.
Reader: So where are they all, in their Easter holidays?
Candia: Snod and Virginia are with Diana and Murgatroyd in the
Borders, sorting out the guest lists and logistics, but Dru and Nigel
have taken themselves off to Lanzarote. They bumped into David
Cameron the other day. Dru took a selfie with SamCam and invited
her-and Dave- to the wedding(s).
Reader (impressed): Did they accept?
Candia: No, they politely responded with the equivalent of: It is an
honour that we dream not of.
Reader: He might be free by then. By the way, is Snod happier about
Candia: I believe that he took Virginia’s hands and said: ‘Perhaps
my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But
I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now.’
Reader: That’s from Krapp’s Last Tape and Embers.
Candia: Typical. One of his obsessions. He always talks…you know…
stuff like: ‘I can’t go on like this.’
Reader: And then he does?
Candia: Precisely. But Virginia can handle him. At least, I think she
Virginia: Yes, I can.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession
of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife, Drusilla had quoted to her
father with a laugh, at her small engagement celebration.
The hint had not been too subtle and he had riposted:
But what about a single man who is not yet in possession of an
indifferent pension? And, furthermore, I have the humility to question
whether I am ‘a fine thing.’
She had sighed in exasperation: Oh, Dad! Inverted pride, more like!
Now Augustus Snodbury was shaving and meditating as he did so.
He could no longer prevaricate.
Lines from Romeo and Juliet whirled around his mind, as was
usual when he had been drumming a text all term into the
recalcitrant brains(?) of restless adolescents.
I like her well enough, he mused, referencing Juliet’s words to Lady
Capulet, but reversing the gender perspective.
( He did not usually play the female lead, but would generally
assign it to some pretty-looking boy whom he wanted to punish
for a late prep.)
…if looking liking move, he continued.
Was he moved sufficiently?
Terror rushed through his veins and he nicked himself through
self-sabotage, dispensing with a need for a Mercutio, or Tybalt, to
draw blood. He was aware that he was in a fear or flight situation.
But no more deep will I endear mine eye, whispered one of his angels.
He would never again be able to watch all the Test matches in peace
and absorb himself in The Six Nations, not to mention Wimbledon.
He had travelled down to Rochester to Bunbury, Quincunx and Quatrefoil
with Drusilla, to collect the pigeon blood Burmese ruby ring from the
depository, in order to make his proposal to Virginia, with a gem from
Lady Wivern’s bequest. Dru had not wanted it. She thought it too vulgar
and had been pleased to resign any right in the stash, in exchange for the
sweet little heart-shaped ring she had acquired to mark her betrothal to
He put himself into the sandals of Caesar himself. Maybe it would be
treason, treason to his long-held bachelorhood status, but now he knew
that he must cross the last frontier and push his boat into the Rubicon
of married life.
He knew that, like Mr Bennet, he was an odd mixture of quick parts,
sarcastic humour, reserve and caprice. And yet Virginia, unlike Mrs B,
was a woman of some understanding, much information and a certain
temper. Would she agree to entering an arrangement of mutual solace?
Was he in the throes of some Queen Mab fantasy?
At his time of life he felt challenged by the concept of establishing a new
permanent relationship. It made him feel- what? Peevish. Yes, that was
When Dru had phoned her mother to tell her about the engagement, Diana
had been in raptures. Dru was relating how she intended to pay for her
wedding through crowdfunding, but Murgatroyd wouldn’t hear of such a
thing and immediately offered the pele tower as a venue, adding that they
would have a joint celebration at which he and Diana would renew their
Maybe he should make it a threesome. No, that was something entirely
different, he believed. Three weddings and whose funeral?
They were having a piper and all the rigmarole that Snod despised.
Anyway, she might turn him down! That would be a relief, in a way.
He took the ring out of the box and held it to the light. It seemed to have
flaws in the stone. When he was having it cleaned he had asked the
jeweller about it.
All the best stones do, he had remarked. It shows their authenticity.
Well, he hoped Virginia would appreciate him, warts and all!
Alea Iacta Est!